December 27, 2006

Holiday Waves

I was watching a special about tsunamis on cable recently and imagined a similarity with the holiday season. The holidays rush upon us, bowling us over with feverish activity, disrupting routines as well as digestive tracts. The first wave recedes only to be renewed as New Year's celebrations follow quickly on the heels of Christmas.

When The Boy was five, my mom made an advent calendar for him. She's so crafty, my mom. For the past sixteen years, that calendar has been part of our holiday decor. I'm a fool for tradition, but have learned over the years that traditions must bend with the times. The calendar, however, remains constant.

There are twenty-four pockets, each holding a handsewn felt "toy." Every toy has unique character, crafted with sequins and embroidery. Above is Santa and his empty sack. Each day the countdown to Christmas is marked by removing the item from the pocket of the day and attaching it carefully on one of the small velcro squares surrounding Santa.

I have distinct snapshots frozen in my memory of The Boy at various ages tending to his calendrical duties: him in his footie pajamas, his curly blonde hair tousled, standing on his tiptoes to reach the upper portion; him dressed in his elementary school uniform, expression thoughtful as he carefully considered where to position the toy for that day; him in what was his standard high school attire of khaki cargo pants and button-down shirt, untucked, his blonde hair so short the curls were nonexistent, standing eye to eye with Santa. More recently, The Boy towers over him.

This year my mom commented, "Oh that calendar is looking old." I hadn't noticed. It still looks good to me.

We'll bring in the New Year listening to the Atlantic waves crash on the shore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a tradition that has adapted over the years from a family event inclusive of The Boy to a vacation with close friends. The Boy is heading north to the Big Apple, already forming his own traditions. But still. He'll be with us and, I trust, us with him.

Happy New Year, all.
Be safe.

.

December 17, 2006

Money. It's a Hit.

Money rocks, but cash is a drag. I'm a debit card kind of girl. It's the best of all worlds: living on a cash budget but not having to carry cash. I don't even want to think about life before it.

Using my debit card, I end up with a managable pile of receipts, neat pieces of paper I stash in one of three places until it's time to compile them to update our financials for the month. Those little receipts are individually input in the computer and voila! I know where the money went.

But using cash? I end up with bits and pieces everywhere. A $7.86 purchase? A tolerably tidy $10 bill becomes two one dollar bills, one dime, four pennies and a receipt.

The pennies end up jingling around in my pocket or the bottom of my purse. From there they make their way to the olive dish that sits atop the dresser where I empty my pockets each evening and fill them each morning. Why do I keep my pennies in the olive tray? Why not? Once they hit the olive tray, they can consider themselves out of circulation. I rarely pick them up again. The bottom of my purse is also a penny graveyard.

I've often thought of how nice it would be were pennies to fall out of favor. Every purchase would round to the nearest nickel. Could any sane person object?

Real coins, and by that I mean anything that is not a penny, go into my Poker Can which sits next to the olive dish on my dresser. When the Poker Can fills up as Poker Cans are wont to do, the whole lot is transferred into the Super Poker Can. This coinage system is only two years old. I'm not sure what I'll do when the Super Poker Can overflows.

Neat storage of bills in purse or pocket is another issue. I like my bills orderly and neat, denominations collated with all heads facing the same direction. That takes effort. Not to mention paper money is far from sanitary. It's the nature of the beast, trading from hands that have been god-knows-where doing god-knows-what into other hands with a similar history and so on and so on. It's a germfest out there, people.

I know, I know. I should be grateful to have money to spend, no matter what form. Even when it's pennies. Truly I am. Yet I am equally as grateful for my debit card, without which life would be less organized, less efficient and germier. Long live the self swipe!

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December 12, 2006

Suburban Lesbian Bakes a Pie

Joanne's Pecan Pie to be exact.

My office holiday party is tomorrow. We'll have lunch at one of Old Town Alexandria's plethora of fine restaurants then return to the office for dessert and a gift exchange.

We do one of those roundtable gift exchanges. Everyone gets a number and presents are opened and traded around. (Is it rude to vie for the gift oneself brings to such an exchange? I must mull that over. I'd really like to have what I'm giving away.)

So back to the pie. It's a simple recipe and makes a damn fine dessert if you enjoy such things. Let's create one, shall we?

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gather the ingredients:
One 9" frozen deep dish pie crust
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
36 Kraft caramels (unwrapped)
It is interesting that the recipe specifies the 36 Kraft caramels are to be unwrapped. Some details are best not left to intuition.

Into the saucepan go the caramels, the butter and the water. Over very low heat, allow it all to melt. Stir frequently. Watch it happen here through the miracle of timelapse photography!





Meanwhile, between stirs of the caramel mixture, blend together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Ummm ummmm good?



Gradually add the melty mess to the eggy mess.
Stir in the pecans.
Voila! Ready for the pie shell!



Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

We haven't heard from Joanne in years, but I think of her every time I bake her pie.




.

December 10, 2006

The Eyes Have It

Turns out reading glasses have revolutionized my humble existence. Everything is easier. Why did it take me so long to conform? (Stubbornness chafes more often than not. I should give up that habit.)

It has not been easy to develop appropriate routines for proper eyeglass usage. Like remembering to always have them at hand, when to put them on and take them off, the exact position to perch them on my nose so I can peer successfully over the top, and how to keep them safe and accessible in my travel bag. Circumstances dictated I follow the advice of similarly handicapped individuals and purchase multiple pairs.

Circumstances being because I broke the one pair I owned. That's right. It took me less than a month to snap an arm off. Dainty fragile little things, my reading glasses. Now I own four pair.

I broke them at work. (Don't ask how, the story is too ugly to share. It was brutal.) Off I traipsed to the local CVS on my lunch hour to purchase a replacement pair. I grabbed two instead. The blouse I was wearing that day partially influenced my color choice: one pair I selected perfectly matched one of its colored stripes. I emailed Wendy a one-liner upon my return to the office: "I bought some really sassy glasses today." Her response: "OMG you bought PINK glasses!?"

The other pair is plain black. Or so I thought until I pulled them out of the package. That's when I saw the white scrollwork down the earpiece. The bright office light glinted off the rhinestones. Oh no. No no no! Pink glasses I can handle. Black with rhinestones and white florally decoration is beyond my limit.

Chalk up yet another practical application for a black Sharpie. It even did an admirable job of masking the rhinestones.

I threw the broken pair away.
Ten minutes later I picked them out of the trash.
I taped the arm neatly back on with scotch tape.
They'll live in the bathroom and no one but me will know.

Well. Wendy will too.
But her I can trust to keep my secret.

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December 6, 2006

It's the Weather

Last Friday we had a high of 75 degrees.
It was humid, too. Tasted like late summer.

Monday we had a high of 40 degrees.
It was crisp and clear.
It still is. Now it tastes like winter.

Tuesday as I made my way to the Metro station, I noticed as I always do the Permanent Puddle. It exists no matter what the weather, occupying an outside corner on the upper parking deck of the garage. The position of said Permanent Puddle requires me to take a longcut to avoid trapsing through it. (It's usually too deep to tiptoe through without your socks getting wet. I am certain. Don't ask how I know.)

Tuesday the Puddle was ice. I squelched the immediate desire to step on it, walk across it, slipslide a little on purpose. I could almost hear how the edges would crackle underfoot.

I wish I had done it. The first ice patch of the season deserves celebration.

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December 5, 2006

Reality TV Transcends the Ages?




Image jacked from somewhere on the internet.
Kudos to the anonymous artist!

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December 4, 2006

Go Ask Alice

Trees glorious trees! Their awakening in Spring is a sign of renewal, their plummage splendiferously shady in Summer and a riot of delicious color in Fall, the barren dark branches reaching toward the sky setting just the right mood in Winter. Who could ask for anything lovelier to decorate the horizon?

Right about now, I could. It's a passing fancy. See we haven't yet gotten around to tidying up Mother Nature's leafy detritus. My father always proclaimed, "What God put down, God will take away!" or something of the sort. I have no childhood memories of raking leaves. Who knew then how lucky I was to be spared such labor?

Now is not a good time to romp in our backyard. The thick brown coat of leaves obscuring the grass masks all signs of whatever dangers may be hiding beneath the crunchy layer.

And yes, there is danger. Grave danger. We have two dogs, dontcha know. Said dogs take care of all their worldly business in our backyard. It's nigh on impossible to scoop in the Fall. Even with my glasses.

Alice visited us the day after Thanksgiving. It was a warm sunny day here in the Nation's Capital. She thought of better things to do than to sit around chatting in the living room with the old folks. We romped in the yard. The backyard. Three year olds have their own special brand of romp. Alice loved the dogs and the dogs loved her. Pixie had never been up close and personal with a miniature human before; she was greatly intrigued. Dudley was, as always, a gentleman.

Alice made the rounds of our yard several times. Pixie spreads her toys far and wide. Alice insisted on tracking down each and every one. She would carefully pick them up, give a brief sniff and test the texture gently against her cheek while squeezing to discern density and squeakability.

Somewhere in our travels, she picked up dog shit on her shoe. Those cute little saddle shoes. I snatched it off her foot in the nick of time just before she stepped back into the house.

Wendy washed Alice's hands. I cleaned and polished her shoe. That cute little dog shit-covered saddle shoe.

We like it when mini-people come to visit. Even when they insist on wandering through the minefield.

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November 30, 2006

Suddenly Scientific

How many rolls of toilet paper does a household go through in an average week?

That is the question I've set out to answer for our own household, inspired in part by the quantity of Charmin flushed away during our recent spate of company over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yes, we had a lot of company and it was a "food" holiday. But damn. I swear we blew through a nine pack of Ultra-Charmin over those four days and five nights. I personally changed the roll four times over the course of the holiday. (That's not counting whatever happened in the downstairs bathroom. I'm not even sure anyone besides The Boy used it. I sure didn't. The last time I was down there I saw a spider. Quite near the toilet. Need I say more?)

The Boy was the only representative of the male persuasion. The other seven bodies utilizing our humble facilities were female. Isn't it a commonly known factoid that women use more toilet paper than men? Is it true? I've always assumed so. Perhaps you've never thought about it. I have. More than once. The mind, it wanders.

Suddenly I'm irresistibly interested in Typical Household Toilet Paper Usage (THTPU). For the purpose of this experiment, our household will be the control group.

The data collection began with a fresh roll of toilet paper last night. I've numbered the spare rolls stashed handily in the cabinet within arms reach of the toilet. Lest you feel I'm unduly obsessed and perhaps should use my time more wisely, the numbering took a mere moment, a worthy investment for potentially serious scientific gain.

Well. That's a stretch.
But at least I'll satisfy my curiosity.
I shall report back here in a week to satisfy yours.

Feel free to play along if you'd like.
You know your inner scientist wants to.

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November 28, 2006

My Own Moral Authority

Science creates questions that can't always be answered.
Religion creates answers that can't ever be questioned.


I don't recall where I saw first those two sentences juxtaposed, but they've stuck with me.

I was reminded of them when I stumbled across this recent opinion piece entitled "When religion loses its credibility" by Oliver Thomas, a Baptist minister. The theme is Christianity and homosexuality.

In part, he writes of the pomposity of the absolute certainty with which religions avow their beliefs as fact despite contradictory scientific evidence. "What if we're wrong?" he wonders. It wouldn't be the first time.

He feels religious "moral authority" erodes as leaders and practitioners pick and choose which bits of the Bible are to be touted as supreme certainty that God is anti-gay. Nothing says hypocrisy like a little selective interpretation.

Are we homosexual types born this way? Or are we "disordered" human beings as the U.S. Roman Catholics have decreed? Not that they are alone in their zealous classification. There are plenty of other denominations tossing their derogatory verses into the fountain. Pile on, everyone! There's gay hating enough to go around!

I don't agree with Elton John that organized religion should be abolished, but maybe they could just shut the fuck up and hide like they want me to do. That doesn't seem terribly unreasonable.

Or does it?

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November 27, 2006

I Even Licked the Plate

I just devoured the last of the leftover cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce. Only some turkey and creamy gravy remains. But alas, even such grand taste sensations as those pale without dressing and cranberry sauce in company.

Until next year, oh savory sweet goodness.
Worry not that I shall stray.
Nothing could ever take your place.

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November 26, 2006

November 20, 2006

Food Security

According to our own USDA, hungry people are no longer hungry. They just have low food security.

There is high food security at our home right now. No, I'm not gloating. I am grateful. We will be hosting the family Thanksgiving feast. The weekend was spent planning and shopping for the event.

Changing traditions is the theme of the week. Out with the old, in with the new, saving pieces of the past as ballast.

Out with the old: no more Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa's house. No more travel naps in the car for The Boy on the way to their home. No more Hal grumbling over carving the bird. No more eating off my mom's beautiful china with sterling silver utensils. No more interesting seasonal centerpiece and handcrafted tablecloth, placemats and napkins. No more playing dominoes in the evening. No more family bonding while clearing their expansive lawn of fallen leaves the day after.

In with the new: Thanksgiving at our house. My sister and mother will be joining us, as will The Boy. We will eat off our ancient Corelle plates with our stainless steel flatware. Our serving dishes will not match. Luckily there will be but five of us, otherwise our glassware would not match either. I wonder who will carve the bird. Might be me. I had dreams of putting everyone to work clearing our lawn of fallen leaves, but I've tabled that fantasy. We're all more in need of rest.

Ballast: Our turkey will be lovingly smoked by Smokey Joe's as always. I will make the same cornbread dressing and asparagus casserole my mother always made. We will watch football together and perhaps play cards.

We will drink a toast to Hal's memory with cheap white wine. I will recall his crooked smile and bushy eyebrows; the wine decanter with the decorative knot collar he crafted; the way he always pouted when losing at dominoes and laughed when he won; the motion he used to push his bangs out of his face; him sitting in his recliner with his glasses on his nose and a newspaper open in his lap, peering over at the television set every now and again; and his quiet snore when he drifted off for a nap.

Yes, this year marks the start of a whole new generation of traditions. I hope you enjoy yours, whatever they may be. And may your food security always be high.

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November 16, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Wendy and I have been renovating our house for three years. Three freaking years. We're not done yet. Sure, measurable progress has been made. But in recent months we have stalled to almost a complete standstill. There are several daunting projects remaining and other areas in need of fine tuning.

We've amassed a large photo library documenting our efforts. In search of motivational inspiration to get us back on track, I perused those photos. Particularly striking are the "before" pictures. Some projects I'd forgotten we'd even done. It's quite affirming to be reminded how far we've come.

I do enjoy a jaunt down memory lane. Take this project, for example.



How could I have forgotten the decrepit heating/cooling unit under the picture window in the living room? Just ignore the pink holey walls. We had bigger problems. Weighing several hundred pounds, that monstrosity dominated the living room and the brick exterior of the front of the house. The problem vexed, not only "How?" but moreso, "Then what?"

One gray Saturday not long after we moved in, a wild hair sprouted. That unit would be removed and it would be removed immediately! We'd figure out how as we went along. Formulating a rough plan, we grabbed our tools and had at it.



Ta da! I may look dismayed, but it was a triumphant moment. When all was said and done, we muscled that bitch through the wall and to the curb for trash pickup. We sheetrocked the interior and buttoned up the exterior until we could hire a mason to patch the brickwork. Today there is no sign it ever existed. And the living room is no longer pink.

At times it is helpful to remind oneself of past success in order to gird for the present. Often what seems at first impossible is solved by something as simple as a wild hair and determination.

Girding for the present.
There's something to be said for that.
Determination rocks.

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November 14, 2006

One Fine Weekend

We had houseguests.

You all know what that means. The hostesses must ensure their abode is in decent shape to receive visitors. This entails not only neatening and cleaning, but also meal planning and grocery shopping. Thankfully Wendy and I work well together in that regard. We are akin to a finely tuned symphony as we prepare for guests.

Did I mention I broke the dishwasher? Well I did. About two months ago. We haven't bothered to repair it because we are lazy slobs. Really though, how many dirty dishes does a family of two create anyway? Not that many. Handwashing is perfectly adequate. Of course with company coming, I view a broken dishwasher a bit differently. Anyone got a pill to cure lazy slobitude? It was too late to fix it for our most recent company, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We're definitely gonna need it then.

Our weekend guests have come and gone. I wasted all sorts of energy worrying about how the visit would unfold. Why? It's what I do. I worry. I'm damned good at it. But it was wasted worry, and oh how I abhor wasting worry. I mean, really. What if I run out? What would I do if I had nothing to worry about? I'd be lost, adrift in a sea of calm. The very idea makes me cringe. I'm not meant to be calm.

These visitors were like cotton candy: a sweet treat that left us wishing for more. I can't make up my mind if they were pink or blue or maybe even green cotton candy. I don't think it matters. I dare you to experience cotton candy and not smile, riding the comfortable wave of silliness that accompanies a high dose of sugar. Yes, that's it: our guests were pure sugar.

What do you get when you mix two California bloggers and two Virginia bloggers with a bowl of gummy eyes left over from Halloween?

Triclops?




Frankly, I don't quite know what to make of these.



Yeah. It was a mighty fine weekend.
Y'all shoulda been here too.

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November 8, 2006

On Thin Lines and Being Easy

I crossed a line.
It's one I never thought I'd ever cross again.
I did it anyway.

Having traded my easy wash-n-go hair for a quasi-Medusa-like mass of long curls, it no longer dries automati- cally between when I exit the shower and my arrival at work. A hair dryer is now part of my mandatory morning routine. It's a good thing Wendy doesn't mind sharing her toys.

I waffle about my hair incessantly. Each time I'm certain I've decided to get it all chopped off, I receive affirmation for my new look. It happened again yester- day on my way to vote.

In our neck of the woods, elementary schools serve as polling places. I secured a parking spot in the crowded lot and followed the signs to the designated entrance. I passed a woman and her teenage daughter heading back to their car and smiled a greeting. The woman and I simultaneously realized we knew each other.

I hadn't seen her in at least three years, possibly four. We had worked together during my five-year stint as the treasurer of our local chamber of commerce; she had also been on the board. While our politics are at divergent ends of the spectrum, I appreciated her work ethic and follow-through. Plus she always had responded generously to solicitations for support of the theatre program where The Boy attended high school.

She and her daughter proudly sported George Allen campaign stickers on their jackets. We stood in the sun and chatted a bit, talking about her three children and my one. Then she said, "I really like your hair. It's such a softer look. You look years younger."

Alrighty then. That waffled me right back to leaving it long. The need to blow it dry every morning suddenly didn't seem so odious. I'm so easy.

By next week, of course, I'll have waffled back.

Meanwhile, I bask in the results of the elections. Sure, the Virginia marriage amendment passed along with similar measures in seven other states. I'm not basking in that. But the House? And the Senate? I'm basking. For the first time in a long while, I have hope for America.

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November 6, 2006

Mine Eyes

I gave in. I had to. I'd resisted far too long for no reason other than what I guess is vanity.

The last straw landed softly on a recent weekend. I spent the better part of a Saturday curled up on the couch, a fire in the fireplace and college football on the TV. In my hands was a book I'd been meaning to read for months. Reading is fundamental, dontcha know.

So there I curled, reading. Or trying to.

I'm stubborn yes, but an eventual realist.
Now look at me.




It seems for vanity and middle age to peacefully co-exist, one must make concessions.

At least the book did not disappoint.
Five stars!

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November 2, 2006

Just a Little Pinprick

*tap tap*
Is this thing on?
The cobwebs concern me.

I wonder if I seem as different as everything I see around me. Like the burning bushes in our front yard. Each morning when I roll down the driveway, the brilliant blotches of red catch my eye. This time next week, the leaves will be brown and on the ground.

I've been home for five days. The show was amazing, The Boy's voice pure honey. There's more I'd like to share about the trip, but other circumstances have me paralyzed. I screwed up, and in the process learned who has my back, or, more precisely, who doesn't. I wonder at times how I can be so obtuse.

The first anniversary of my stepfather's death is approaching. Aware only of the numbness, I've not delved deeply into my feelings. Not much anyway. In that regard, I'm grateful to have my mom to look after. Playing caretaker leaves little opportunity to examine oneself.

I poke at the numbness, prodding it gently. My eyes flood with tears and my body feels like lead. I can even get a rhythm going: poke, tears, stop poking, breathe deeply. What a cool party trick. I'm doing it right now. Can you tell?

It's almost been a year. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him.

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October 24, 2006

Like a Tree

It's that time of year again, time for the fall musical at The Boy's college. This year it's Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, classic music theatre fare.

Until The Boy went off to college, we never missed an opening night, most often seeing every performance in a run. We're weird that way. Parents can get away with a certain amount of stalkerish behavior.

We haven't attended even one opening night since college began. Timing, distance. You know the drill. But I'll be there Thursday for this one. I only wish my girl could be there with me. Due to the very unfortunate timing of an accreditation review at Wendy's office, she is chained to her desk and unable to join me until the weekend.

Thinking on it, I'm pretty sure it'll be a first. A first for me being at one of his shows without her in the seat next to me. It's going to be odd. I feel selfish leaving her at home. Sure, she'll be joining me Saturday, but meanwhile I'll sit in the theatre with a stranger in the seat next to me, wishing it was Wendy instead.

The title of the post is from a song The Boy will perform, "Soliloquy". His character, Billy Bigelow, has just found out he is to be a father and is contemplating what he envisions for his child: "Like a tree he'll grow / with his head held high / and his feet planted firm on the ground... "

Just like our boy.
And almost as sappy as me.

After singing such a sweet emotional song of future hope and determination, Billy, in despair after botching a robbery attempt, plants a knife in his own belly.

Trees rarely behave that way.
Billy is obviously more like a weed.

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October 22, 2006

Were I an Efficient Woman

Were I an efficient woman, there wouldn't be yet another pink card from our postal carrier announcing yet another non-delivery of yet another package.

Getting packages is cool. Getting a pink card from our postal carrier announcing he has a package for us but did not deliver it because no one was home is uncool. Completely uncool.

Do you get packages? Now and again? We do. Aren't packages fun? They are not always expected. They do not always fit in our mailbox. The ones that don't fit used to get delivered safe, warm, and dry in the carport. By the door. Where we'd find them when we returned home.

Our letter carrier, somewhat new to the route, a retired marine who "always adheres to the letter of the law" as directly quoted third-hand from a neighbor, states there is a new regulation requiring a homeowner to either be present to accept a package or have on file with the local Post Office a note stating it's okie-dokie to leave packages without a human presence to accept them.

This seems to be the height of postal inefficiency. Don't people pay extra to get "signature required" delivery? But he doesn't want a signature. He just wants us to be there to transfer the package from his hands to ours. He won't even leave it with our neighbor.

Oh sure, we can sign the little pink card and he'll bring the package in a few days. Or we can go to the Post Office and pick it up. Or we can write a note for him to keep on file saying it's okay for him to leave packages and he'll leave them like they always used to get left.

Were I an efficient woman, I'd have written the note weeks ago.

We got another pink card on Saturday.
I wonder what's in the package?

Were I an efficient woman, we'd already know!

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October 18, 2006

Signs of the Times

Here in Virginia, we have a hotly contested Senate race underway between incumbent George Allen and challenger Jim Webb. Emotions run high, as evidenced by this enormous sign displayed down the street and around the corner from our home.




Someone has too much time on their hands.

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October 17, 2006

Comfort Food

Sometimes one must perform icky tasks in pursuit of culinary delight. The results are usually worth the effort. My labor Friday paid off all weekend.

Picking chicken off the bone is not my favorite cooking chore. I try hard not to envision the chicken clucking happily around the barnyard or, worse, stifled in a chicken factory. You know what I mean. Yet the chicken must be off the bone when one is crafting chicken stew. I put some happy tunes on the CD player and sang along as I separated the meat from the carcass. The bare bones joined their vegetable counterparts in the stockpot where they simmered with spices for a few hours, melding into my version of homemade stock as it filled the house with a luscious scent. The shredded meat waited patiently in the refrigerator for the next step.

That's another joy of making chicken stew: no part of the chicken gets wasted. It greatly appeals to my sense of efficiency.

I make chicken soup and call it stew because it's thick and chunky. It's also an excuse to cook with farfalle, or bowtie pasta as it is commonly known. Bowties are a favored shape running neck and neck with acini di pepe as my all time favorite pastas. It's rugged and holds up well in soup. I also get weak for rigatoni, but that's a tale for another day.

This weekend was filled with outdoor labor enjoying glorious blue skies and crisp fall air. During the day, Wendy and I channeled weese as we busted ass to get our yard in a semblance of order for the impending winter season. Evenings found our appetites sated with hot chicken stew and cuddles in front of a roaring blaze in the fireplace. Does it get any better than that? Not often methinks, but then we are simple folk.

The touch of green is fresh spinach from a bag, the first I've purchased since the e. coli debacle. Living on the edge, oh yeah baby. That's how we do it here in the 'burbs.




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October 14, 2006

Up In Arms

Do you like the look of your arms? I haven't been enamoured of my own in years.

My arms used to be something truly special. I clearly recall my stepmother telling me admiringly on more than one occasion, "Suzanne, you have perfect arms!" Of course it was in jest, but not total jest. I did have good arms in my youth, near perfect to my legendary memory.

Years passed as years tend to do and my arms aged along with the rest of me. From the elbow down, they still look good. I say this with no exaggeration: my forearms are fab.

From the elbow up, well that's where it gets scary. Tone and shape have disintegrated into classic middle age upper arm flab. The pudgy flesh sways gently back and forth like a hammock swinging betwixt two trees. Or is it more like the jiggle of a bowl of jello? Either or and both. I haven't worn a sleeveless anything in more years than I can count on both hands. A little self-conscious, you say? Indeed. I used to have perfect arms after all.

When my stepfather died, we were the beneficiary of first choice of his yard tools. One of those little gems may be the upper arm savior I so desperately need.

Behold The Pogo! This device splits logs like a knife through butter. It works with a pump action by lifting then driving the handle downward which propels the wedge into the log. It's like a sliding hammer. Guess which muscles get used? That's right, those flabby ones that run down the back of my upper arms!

It's so much more pleasant than splitting wood using wedges and a sledge hammer. No missed targets, no flying or stuck wedges. No bending over to retrieve and reseat the wedge or log. No harsh jarring of my aging joints. No danger should the dogs want to hang around to help. It's efficient, smooth, and damned effective.

Nothing gets me quite as excited as productive exercise and accomplishing more than one thing simultaneously. There may be hope for my arms after all.

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October 10, 2006

People Who Call Me Susan

There are three who get away with it.
Three people I know.

All others get corrected. Politely of course. No venom in my voice, no evil glare exposing the truly heinous nature of their offense.

Still. It's best to remember.
I prefer you remember.

My name is Suzanne.
Not Susan.

Richard is one. I've worked for and with him for nineteen years. He has called me Susan from day one. His business partner and employees get it right, but not Richard. Not verbally, not in writing. Susan it is and for some reason I don't mind.

Katie is another. She has cut my hair for... well... for a long time. I like that she always asks about The Boy and consistently gives a good haircut. I don't see her often these days, what with adopting the wild and crazy long grey curls I've been working on since last November. But when I stopped in last month, I smiled at her greeting: "Hello Susan! It's been awhile!" I don't even grit my teeth when Katie calls me Susan.

Anthony is the third. He's Bonnie's dad. They live directly behind us. We met them before we put up the privacy fence, otherwise he might still be a stranger. I don't have the foggiest idea why he thinks my name is Susan or if I've ever corrected him. Seems like more trouble than it's worth to do so. I just roll with it.

As for the rest of you, well, don't be stealing my "z".
Such deprivation should not be the norm in polite society.

.

October 8, 2006

Sunrise, Sunset

The house we lived in prior to this one had three levels. Our bedroom was on the top floor. The master bathroom was small, yet perfect in function. Its best feature was the window overlooking the backyard. We used to hang out that window and smoke cigarettes.

I leaned comfortably on my elbows, my forehead on the sash, usually a book or magazine resting on the sill, the smoke from my cigarette drifting away discreetly. I miss that window.

I smoked off and on during the five years we lived in that house, but mostly on. Evidently I'm addicted. I used to spy on the neighbors behind us. Couldn't be helped, really. Sometimes I liked to look around while hanging out the window smoking cigarettes.

I often watched the man behind us do chores in his yard. He was a fairly young man, clean cut, father of three. Once I observed him deconstructing tree branches that had fallen during a particularly nasty storm. The man always moved like he was encased in a bubble of molasses. Each move was painfully deliberate and slow in motion. Efficient, I suppose, in his own way, as he eventually got the job done. But geez. From my comfortable smoking perch on the third floor, my imagination conjured up a leather whip to crack over his head while shouting, "Get moving, man! You haven't got all day!"

But maybe he did have all day. Who was I to say? I dropped my cigarette butt into the toilet, flushed, then re-entered my own world.

I thought about him today as I worked in the yard. 'Tis the season to turn the summer pile of tree debris into a neat stack of kindling for the fireplace. I had all day to do it. I moved slowly, deliberately, without great sense of purpose and zero urgency. Much like our old neighbor.

My kindling project today was just busy work. Brainless busy work. Minimal physical labor to get me moving, to keep me moving. Snapping little twigs and branches into appropriate fireplace lengths is satisfying. Every so often I'd get gouged or scratched by those branches and twigs, which aroused an idle curiosity when I almost appreciated the pain.

I told my friend Tina that I am in a mood. She didn't ask me to define it. It's just the mood I get in when things are happening around me over which I have no control.

There is no control. No task that can be done to fix or repair or resolve. No 'if I just apply myself, get off my lazy ass and do it' results to be had, no tangible 'if I just put my mind to it, the problem will be gone' solution. There's just hanging out. Waiting.

I thought about that while I snapped twigs and made piles.
The weather was beautiful.
I sure made an impressive mound of kindling.
And for today, that's gotta be enough.

.

October 6, 2006

It Gets Around

My blogroll is acting up.
I don't get the little visual indicators when someone has updated.
It displeases me.

We're having our trees trimmed this week.
I think they will be happier all neatened up.
It excites me.

I opened a door without really thinking.
It will expose something near and dear to my heart.
It scares me in a good way.

Things are settling down nicely at work.
I get to use my brain again and have found it still functions.
It gives me hope.

I woke up early and listened to the rain.
The weather is dark, cold and wet.
It relaxes me.

My mother has breast cancer.
She's being evasive and I still don't know if she's shared everything.
It makes me wanna puke.

.

October 5, 2006

Do Your Friends Treat You Like a Guest?

And if they do, is it a bad thing?

.

October 4, 2006

Reflection Unbecoming

I did something completely radical.
I shaved off my eyebrows.




No, of course I didn't. But I feel like it sometimes. In moments of fury. Fucking eyebrows need almost daily maintenance. Tweezers be damned! I never signed on for this.

And how about these damned age spots? The ones on my face? What the fuck is up with that? It's got me seriously contemplating wearing makeup. Lots of it. I yearn to slather my face with cosmetic concoctions thick and rich enough to offer at least a vague promise of fully concealing those demoralizing spots. Age spots. On my face! Oh the unmitigated horror.

Let's not even go near the topic of the wrinkles on my neck. Only Wendy can go near them. Because when she's near my neck I'm not thinking about how wrinkled it looks when I see it in a mirror.

She needs to stay there. Near my neck.
Aging gracefully evidently requires props.

.

October 2, 2006

Innovation

During a casual conversation with long-distance friends, the topic of strip clubs came up. I declared, in a somewhat righteous manner, "There are no strip clubs in Virginia! We have laws against that sort of thing." Imagine my nose pointing in the air as I sniffed arrogantly. Why the pomposity? I was lost in the moment.

I was reminded of the conversation as we passed through Richmond on I-95 and saw billboards advertising Paper Moon: Richmond's Finest Gentlemen's Club.

"Huh," I mused. "Virginia does have strip clubs!" A google search provided a directory of 23 clubs located throughout the state, clustered primarily in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, with a handful in Richmond (doesn't every capital of a conservative state have titty bars?) and a couple here in Northern Virginia. Who knew?

I don't have any strong feelings for or against such places. I've even been to one. Once. Well. It wasn't a pure strip club, it was a Girl's Night stripper event at a now-defunct gay bar, Tracks, in the District. Gay bars don't flourish here in Virginia. There are even fewer of them than there are strip clubs. Shocking, I know. We Virginia homosexuals must venture across the river to mix with Our Own Kind in public.

So there we were on that mild summer night, a throng of lesbians of varying ages gawking at the skantily clad dancers gyrating on the stage. I felt awkward, quite awkward actually. I was around 25 years old, my life in a complete shambles transition. What was I doing there? Peer pressure. My friends thought I needed to get out of the house and have some fun. They were probably right.

Those friends badgered me into tipping the dancer I'd been oogling watching. To this day that memory is strongly ingrained: me shyly approaching, unexpectedly making eye contact and quickly looking away. But at what? What drew my eyes? Well her fabulous abs for one thing, which were even more spectacular up close. She smiled, but I don't know if it was a real smile or a plastic one. Didn't particularly matter. She shimmied provacatively as I tucked the dollar into the waistband of her panties while turning twelve shades of red. I ran casually strolled back to our table. My friends greeted me with whoops and hollers. I grabbed my beer, drank deeply and waited for my heart to stop beating so damned fast.

Have you ever driven down I-85 from Virginia to North Carolina? The... umm... facility pictured below can be seen from the highway just after crossing into North Carolina. Many times, I've seen a red neon sign flashing "OPEN" displayed in the window, otherwise I'd be certain it is abandoned. I've always assumed it is a strip club. Despite the sign announcing its status as an innovative health club. A health club with an all girl staff.

What do you think?



.

September 28, 2006

Let's Talk Purses, Shall We?

Well. Not just purses. Purses and bags. In my mind, those items perform distinctly different yet equally important functions.

I like to be prepared. Hence I carry around a lot of stuff. Therefore I need a big bag. No, not a plastic bag. A tote. A shoulder bag.

When I leave our home for work, I carry my big bag stuffed with all manner of things I may need during my travels: my dayplanner, a book to read, antibacterial hand wipes, a notebook in which to jot random thoughts, a bottle of water, perhaps a small snack, an umbrella if the weather warrants. I do so like to be prepared.

Inside the big bag nestles a smaller bag. The smaller bag is my purse.

My purse is an island unto itself. It holds my stash of important littler things: wallet, cell phone, dental floss, cigarettes and lighter, assorted pain relievers, chewing gum, mints. Things I use often and like to have easily at hand. My purse can also be grabbed for quick errands when the big bag may be extraneous.

I envy women who have purses to match different outfits. I'd like to be one of them, but I'm not. Instead I'm the kind of woman who uses one purse exclusively until it is used up. Sometimes it matches my outfit, other times not so much.

I had a disturbing experience recently. Wendy and I went shopping over the weekend and I purchased a new purse. It was time, past time perhaps. Holes had worn in the seams of the old one. Once home, I excitedly transferred my precious purse belongings into their new home.

Monday morning rolled around and, as is typical of many Monday mornings, I was running late. The clock tick tick ticked toward the time, then past the time, I should leave for work. I let the dogs in, did our doggie thing, grabbed my purse off the dining room table, stuffed it into my big bag and slung it over my shoulder. I was off and running.

Halfway to work, as is my custom, I reached into my big bag to rummage around in my purse in search of the mints I always keep there. My forehead wrinkled in consternation as it quickly became apparent there were no mints to be found. "What's up with that?" I thought as I frantically fumbled around taking inventory with my fingertips. "I need a mint! I need a mint NOW!"

I discovered not only was my essential tin of mints AWOL, but so was my cell phone, chewing gum, dental floss, assorted pain relievers and, drum roll please, my freaking wallet. My brow wrinkled further as my anxiety grew. I was naked in the wilderness!

Alas, alack, woe was me! I had been careless. The purse I grabbed off the dining room table on my way out the door that morning was my OLD purse. All that was left inside was worthless stuff that didn't merit transition to the new purse.

I can only imagine this problem would be compounded were I ever fashionable enough to coordinate purses with my outfits. There is a reason I am like I am.

.

September 26, 2006

Photo Distraction

I just finished reading a book titled The Drowning People by Richard Mason and had a strange time of it. I enjoyed the author's writing style. He's adept with the twist of a phrase and works in little things that make the reader anticipate what's coming without giving it away. The settings are rich, the characters full of body and soul, the storyline nicely paced.

But there was a problem: the dust jacket. Specifically the full length black and white photograph of the author on the back.

It distracted me.

It distracted me because I could not reconcile the prose within with the youthful visage in the photo. The author is a fine young specimen of the male form. A lock of shaggy dark hair falls across his forehead, his face clean-shaven, his slender body slouched with thumbtips in pockets, the tail of his open-collared white button-down shirt untucked over his dark pants.

I can easily imagine him modeling boxer briefs for Calvin Klein.
But I cannot imagine that book coming out of his brain.

I took the dust jacket off and hid it on the bookshelf until I was done. Problem solved.


.

September 25, 2006

Perspective

I'm cranky today. I have no real reason. That makes me even crankier.

I labeled myself Grumpy Smurf.
Wendy said, "There is no Grumpy Smurf!"
I said, "Yes there is, dammit. I am him."

Then I saw this. This lady, well, she has a real reason to be cranky!

I wonder how she scored the toss?

.

September 20, 2006

Got Wood?

Monday I ordered two cords of firewood, our usual winter supply. Today the wood was unceremoniously dumped in our driveway. There was the traditional jumping for joy and cheering, because firewood delivery means something special: fall is in the air with winter close behind.

So deep is our appreciation of a roaring blaze in the fireplace, Wendy and I welcome even the task of hauling and stacking firewood. Into the wheelbarrow log by log, load by load, rolled lovingly through the gate and across the yard to the designated wood stacking location. We have fabricated a tidy rack to safely store our precious logs until it is time to incinerate them to ash as they add warmth and atmosphere to our humble abode.

Usually we stack on the weekend. But it's Wednesday. The thought of leaving our precious firewood heaped unattractively in our driveway until Saturday was unappealing. So after work today we began the hauling and stacking process. It got dark right about the time we noticed the wheel on our wheelbarrow was rolling drunkenly instead of smoothly. Cheap piece of shit wheelbarrow, we cursed. But the timing was good, I suppose, considering it had gotten dark and all.

A cord of wood stacks to the dimensions of 4' high by 4' wide by 8' long. The racks we constructed hold two cords perfectly. Before we broke the wheelbarrow broke itself and it got dark, we had filled the racks about 3/4 full, representing approximately a cord and a half. Yet a significant pile of logs still remains in the driveway. A significant pile. Enough logs that I'm thinking they delivered closer to three cords than two.

A blessing or a curse?
My back says the latter while my frugal nature says, "Score!"

.

September 19, 2006

Puppy Tuck, Suburban Style

I've always been susceptible to guilt. The source of such susceptibility is a mystery to me. Is it just human nature? Depends on which human, I guess.

Our dog Pixie plays that particular weakness of mine. She is usually rather subtle in her own non-subtle way. This morning, she notched her efforts up and left subtlety in the dust.

Wendy always leaves for work before I'm fully awake. The pups don't mind her departure as much as they do mine. They come on back to bed and snuggle with me, encouraging me to stay there instead of getting up and being a productive member of society.

Three days a week I work my nine-to-five. I leave home at 8:35. (I should leave at 8:25 but time flies faster in the morning. What is up with that?) We all gather in the kitchen just prior to my departure. There, we chat briefly they listen intently as I babble. I dispense a tasty, longer-lasting chew-type treat for them to enjoy while we are off selling our souls earning an honest living. I say goodbye in my talking-to-the-doggies voice, "Pika pika choo choo chow chow chow!" (Don't ask why I say that or what it means. I have no answers.)

Dudley always happily snatches his bone (I call all those things bones, even if they aren't remotely bonelike at all) and rushes off to settle on the couch.

Pixie, on the other hand, turns into Little Miss Coy. She sniffs the bone. She sits and stares pitifully at me like she recognizes that treat to be the bribe it truly is and wants no part of it. I sweetly encourage. She turns her nose up and, leaving the bone behind, slinks off to the dog bed in the living room. I toss the bone on her bed and depart, knowing full well she'll scarf it up as soon as I'm out of sight.

Yeah. She sure shows me who's boss.

This morning she didn't run off and pout. She shimmied shyly over until she was right next to my foot and she tucked my calf! Ah that shameless little vixen! Playing the Tuck Card when she damn well knew I was late for work!

Eh, what's a few more minutes when I'm already late?
It's a small sacrifice for a puppy tuck.

.

September 17, 2006

Kick Off

We have a friend who has a thing about feet. He professes his own to be beautiful, yet rarely exposes them in public or private. Other people's feet? They creep him out, causing him to shudder and cringe in disgust.

We were at his apartment last weekend to watch football. I wore sandals because the weather was warm. As I made that decision, the thought of our host being bothered by my nearly naked extremities crossed my mind but didn't change it.

See, my feet truly are beautiful. I take care of them. A little foot maintenance goes a long way. I have no cause for foot shame.

Upon arrival at his abode, I snagged a beer and settled into a chair strategically located next to a bowl of cheesy poofs. Cheesy poofs, beer and football are a winning combination. I propped my feet comfortably on the ottoman.

Our host glanced over and, with gallant inflection, offered me a pair of socks.

I wonder what Miss Manners would advise in such a situation.

.

September 14, 2006

The Calendar Says Thursday...

... but it feels like Friday because we're taking a three-day weekend. It's time for our fourth and final Family Weekend at The Boy's college.

Our car will be packed with a bunch of crap vital things that (a) he forgot to take with him, (b) couldn't fit in his roommate's automobile, and/or (c) I haven't already shipped to him.

I will be forever grateful to his roommate, let's call him C, who has provided transportation for The Boy both home and back to school many times through the years.

Yes, C has a car. The Boy does not, despite the deal I made with him when he was just a kid. I'd read an article about how most smokers get hooked while in their teens. If kids don't smoke before they hit age 21, odds are they never will. Made sense to me. "Son," I said to him, "I have a proposition. If you don't smoke cigarettes before you turn 21, I'll buy you a car."

Considering my own history with cigarettes, I felt the bribe a worthy investment.

He upheld his end of the bargain. As his 21st birthday approached, I contemplated how best to uphold my end. But he shocked me by letting me off the hook. His explanation: our family resources could be better used in other ways, and, while a car would be convenient, he didn't really need one and most likely won't for some years to come. It just wasn't practical.

Alrighty then.

Graduation looms on the not-too-distant horizon. His post-graduation plans do not require an automobile. Yes yes, I'm doing a happy parent dance as I type that. Not because he won't need an automobile, but because he has crafted future plans. Music to any parent's ear, yes?

Pixie will be glad the life-sized replica of Soldier Boy, a souvenir from The Boy's summer role in Sunday in the Park with George, is leaving. It really freaks her out. I'll admit it can be a bit alarming caught in the corner of my eye as I enter the room, an unexpected presence bearing a remarkable, if imperfect, similarity to The Boy.

Peace out, folks.
Enjoy your weekend.

.

September 12, 2006

Across the Generational Divide



The suburban dog plays many roles, not the least of which is to entertain her adoring humans. Pixie was recently tasked to play debutante in a silly game amongst friends. Adorned with my grandmother's pearls, she assumed a regal, sphinx-like stance for the requisite photo.

Of note, this is the first decent picture we have of her awake. Typically she is in constant motion and therefore difficult to pixellate. Her other gear is asleep. Ever wonder how many photos of a sleeping dog constitute too many? I think I know the answer.

Yet wearing the pearls seemed to imbue her with a sense of solemnity and tradition, as, we all know, pearls are wont to do.

I'm pretty sure she's the first dog to wear that strand.
My grandmother would be so proud.

.

September 9, 2006

Simple Snare

I used to think I was ├╝ber-cool.
Yes, yes, it's true.
I still do. Mostly.

Self-delusion.
My favorite midnight snack?

But a girl has to believe in something.
Might as well be herself.

I take great pleasure and pride in my ability to raise one eyebrow independent of the other. My left eyebrow. My quirkable left eyebrow exudes cool, indeed it does. It puts me in a different class, a class above those persons less eyebrow-rific. You know who you are.

On my first face-to-face date with Wendy, there was plenty of conversation. Comfortable conversation. Getting-to-know-you conversation. First date conversation.

Something she said caused me to raise my eyebrow.
Yes yes, that quirkable left eyebrow in which I take such pride.
I flexed that puppy for all it was worth.

And that's when it happened.

Wendy mirrored my raised eyebrow with her own, then, in response to what was most likely a stunned amazed dumbfounded outraged appreciative confused incredulous look on my face, proceeded to waggle both eyebrows at me. One up. The other down. Rapidly reverse and repeat.

And that, my friends, is all it took.
It was like a switch flipped in the cosmos.
As simple as that.
My heart was hers.

I told her later. Much later.
But she still doesn't believe it.
Not about my heart being hers, but about when I knew.
I'm telling it true, though.

My girl, she's a class above.

.

September 7, 2006

I'm Not a Rock, But I Play One on TV




We took a walk along the Potomac River this evening. Yes, the same Potomac River where scientists recently announced discovery of an abundance of intersex fish. Bass, to be specific. Both wide and small mouth. What are we doing to our world?

While driving to work this morning, I became aware of my brain processing subjects at lightning speed. Thoughts bouncing from place to place, worry to worry, person to person, non-stop, high speed. I cranked up the CD to a volume certain to block out the rest of the world. It worked. But ever since, I've been intermittently bursting into song.
"Freedom, run away!"

What's worse, I wonder. Racing thoughts or spontaneous showtunes?

My office, especially of late, is a fascinating blend of male egos colliding. But I'm finding it more frustrating than fascinating. Well. Frustrating is not the right word. Maddening is more like it.

"I'm simply layin' out the facts for you ...
Ain't no time to relax for you..."

For some reason, I'm a magnet. Necessary business reasons aside, people talk to me about things. They confide their feelings. What is up with that?

My own feelings--which aren't all bad--take a backseat while I'm in the office. There is fear in the air there. Unrest. Upheaval. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. But change has arrived in all its glory. Their fear will dissipate eventually. Change is here to stay.

"That freedom sun will shine someday..."

Meanwhile, I've got control of the volume and a river to walk beside with my girl and our dogs. What more can a woman possibly need?

"Run, freedom, run!"

.

September 5, 2006

Father of Mine

A daughter's relationship with her father has got to be one of the most complex--outside of her mother perhaps--she will experience. That is, if she knows her father. I am lucky enough to know mine.

Oh wait. That's just stupid. Why would any daughter consider herself lucky to know her father? I mean, isn't it a father's job to allow their children to know them? I guess it's like any other job. Some dads are good at it, others suck, and there are many levels of competence and/or incompetence in between.

Parenthood is like that. It's all fly by the seat of the pants, hard work and hope. Daughterhood, once one reaches adulthood, is pretty much the same.

My parents divorced when I was in fourth grade. I don't recall feeling particularly tramautized by the event. I left that to my sister. My father, an officer in the Navy, promptly was restationed from Washington, DC to Hawaii. I've tried to imagine what my life would have been had we, as originally intended, moved with him as a family unit before the Big D got in the way. I never get far. What's the point anyway? It was what it was and is what it is. Pragmatism rocks.

My dad and I seem to understand each other. Enough to respect the differences and enjoy the sameness. I'm thinking about him today because I owe him an email and can't seem to stay on task. I'm not so good at the regular communication thing. It doesn't help that we live on opposite coasts. I sit wrapped in my own little cloud, taking comfort in the familial breezes swirling in the distance yet not deigning to disrupt my personal reveries.

I think I may regret that some day.
Hell, for that matter, I think I do already.
I need a swift kick in the ass.

.

September 4, 2006

Life Is a Game of Pick Up Sticks

Hi.

I'm feeling better.

Oh. What? You didn't know I was feeling bad?
That's because I wasn't.
But then I fell down the stairs.

Dogs enjoy human bodies crumpled on the floor. Something about it excites them. They mill around and trample on the body, poking with their cold noses and tickling with their whiskers. They greatly prefer when the body is moaning.

I'm glad I could amuse them.

What does the title of this post have to do with me falling down the stairs? Nothing. It's completely unrelated. But the storm that blew through here Friday left a mess in our yard. I spent the majority of the weekend bent over picking up sticks.

I did leave one where it fell. I've entitled it "Stuck Stick". Kinda looks like a lightning bolt if you use your imagination.

Yes yes. I'm as easily amused as our dogs seem to be. Are you?

.

August 31, 2006

I Craved, Therefore I Created

It had been months since I made a batch of spaghetti sauce. Spaghetti just doesn't fit my image of an appropriate summer meal. Who wants to eat a heavy pile of pasta drowning in deliciously divine meat sauce on a hot summer evening? Not I.

But I craved, therefore I created. Perhaps it is a sign of autumn impending. Where the hell did the summer go anyway?

I've been making spaghetti sauce the same way ever since my mother first taught me how. I think I was around 12 years old. It's not a recipe I've adapted or changed in any way.

Well. Except for that one unfortunate era. A certain someone, a certain woman, concocted her spaghetti sauce using tofu and carrots. Therefore, obviously, it was imperative to craft my own in a similar fashion.

Carrots I knew about. But tofu? New to me. This was long before one could Google their way to expertise on a topic. Could I ask the woman I was gaga over to teach me? Oh hell no, that would never do. Then she'd know I was a tofu novice! How uncool! I was such a dork. I vaguely remember a trip to the library to read up on the every nuance of tofu.

Somehow I must have figured it out because I do recall batches of spaghetti sauce bastardized with diced carrots and blobs of bean curd. I even convinced myself it tasted good. What was I thinking? Who the hell was I back then?

Mercifully I eventually got dumped regained my senses and returned to formulating my sauce as it was intended: the way my mother taught me.

Good stuff, my spaghetti sauce.
It always brings me home.

.

August 29, 2006

Tis the Season!

Biting into a peach can be such a crap shoot. Oh sure, it may appear to the quasi-educated eye to be a fine specimen. Yet the first bite reveals it to be but a fake, a fraud, a horrible pithy parody of what had been so eagerly anticipated.

But during the height of peach season, every one is a winner! Still, I select carefully. I give the fruit a quick once-over. Is the surface relatively unblemished? Check. Color? Looks good. I squeeze it carefully, gently gently. Does it give ever-so-slightly to the light pressure of my thumb? Good, good. Is the scent delicate yet fragrant and distinctively peachy? Excellent.

The reward is sweet juice flooding my mouth as my teeth rip through the delicate skin of the Perfect Peach. The texture is soft, gently yielding to my bite yet possessing a fleshy firmness that nonetheless melts in my mouth as the rich succulent flavor indulges my every sense.

The prepared partaker of the Perfect Peach always secures a napkin before indulging. Even so, one can be hard-pressed to avoid juice running down one's chin and over one's hand, making fingers ill-suited for anything except holding a peach. Somehow I never mind the mess. It's part of the Perfect Peach Experience.

Few things in life are as sweet as eating a peach in the height of peach season. That time is now, my fellow Earthlings. The season is upon us. Go forth and be fruitful. Eat a peach!

Don't forget a napkin.

.

August 28, 2006

Soon It Begins....

This past weekend was all about prepping for fantasy football drafts.

Our money league, the one in which I won $200 last year (yes I know, yesterday's news, but I cling to victories great and small), has a live draft. All twelve team owners gather at the appointed place at the appointed time. Some clutch reams of printouts with notes scribbled in the margins. Others tote laptop computers. One shows up with nary a scrap of paper or even a pencil in hand. That guy, history has proven, hasn't a hope in hell of ever making the playoffs.

A humongous whiteboard imposingly stands at attention at the front of the room. A large color-coded grid delineates drafting rounds and owner names. Usually there is a Hot Chick to record the player names in the appropriate slot as they are drafted by we owners. Invariably, the Hot Chick never accurately spells certain complex player names like "Houshmandzadeh" and "Roethlisberger" but then again, who does? When she trips over spelling "Smith" and "Jones," however, I'm glad she's got her looks to fall back on.

One may think the atmosphere would be relaxed. But no, oh no. Our fantasy football draft is serious business. A nervous tension hangs in the air. There is little banter, less laughter. There are no snacks or adult beverages. There will be plenty of time for all those things later.

I haven't quite decided what to wear to the event. I'm not sure it matters, but can it hurt to dress for success? I think not.

-----

I'm playing in another league this year too, no money involved. An online league. A league full of bloggers! The excitement is verily palpable! These owners are so laid back, we've already had someone volunteer to finish in last place. No, it's not me. I plan on winning.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are two non-blog team owners. We have room for two more teams if anyone wants to join us. Drop me a line.

.

August 27, 2006

Eyes Open

" ... Watergate does not bother me.
Does your conscience bother you? ... "



I blame it on Gina. Late again for her Pointless Points game, I departed with my points appetite unsated and I was cursed with Song Lyric Stuckage™. A Lynyrd Skynyrd song lyric no less. It's been days. Days! Still stuck. Eh, it could be way worse. At least I like the song. It could have been something by those Wiggles she mentions from time to time. Those dudes scare me.

The lyrics are bouncing around my mind completely out of context to anything else bouncing therein. They bounce. Independently. It's like a big rubber room in there.

I'm conscious of conscience these days. Does mine bother me? Why yes, yes it does. But only when it should. The key is paying attention. I try to heed its signals. My conscience gives out plenty of signals. Life is copacetic when I heed and act accordingly. It's a good thing. Obviously that's the major role our consciences play. Otherwise what good are they? As useless as a key drawer devoid of keys.

It pays to not fool oneself.
One's conscience rarely speaks without reason.
It's best to make time to listen.

Do you?

.

August 26, 2006

Transposition

"Suzaaaannnne! Come look at this." Wendy's voice rang out from downstairs. I found her in the dining room, dancing from foot to foot, hugging herself tightly.

"Pixie brought us a present." She pointed toward the back door. Together we peered out to the porch and observed a body lying spread-eagle face up on the step.

"It's a squirrel!" I cringed.
"No, it's a frog!" she squealed.

I peeked again, more closely.
"No honey. It's a squirrel. A baby squirrel."

She peeked again herself.
"You're right!"

We both made sad pouty faces and her dance escalated to spasticity as she herky-jerkily fled the dining room.

I'm not used to such girlish behavior from my partner. Typically when a dead creature is discovered on our property, I squeal while she gets all up close and personal, scientifically curious, making relevant but weird comments like, "Definitely a boy. Look at the size of his scrote!" At times my mind has whirled considering preventative options should she suddenly decide to do a full autopsy.

But today, it was me behaving scientific and un-oogified.
"I'll need to take a picture!" I said impulsively.
Perhaps all the crime TV I watch has had an effect.

I grabbed the camera and got to work. As I photographed the unfortunate and quite dead baby squirrel I observed nary a mark on him to indicate the manner of his demise. No blood, no guts, no gore. I noted his not-yet-bushy tail curled almost artistically away from his body, his babyish ears, his disproportionately large feet, his delicate whiskers and, yes, his package. I imagined Pixie carrying him softly in her mouth like she does with her stuffed toys: trotting around the yard, through the doggie door, onto the porch, gently depositing him on the step.

My scientific curiosity fled as did my photographic zeal.

Wendy, by then, had joined me on the porch. She seemed more herself and offered to dispose of the body.

I mumbled an om mani pedme hung and left her to it.

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August 23, 2006

Suburban 21, Tuesday Night Special Edition

What did you do to celebrate your 21st birthday? Personally I can't recall my own. Way back then, turning 21 wasn't a big thing. Eighteen was the big deal as it represented becoming a legal adult for all things great and small.

About the only new thing when one turns 21 these days is the ability to purchase and drink alcohol legally. That's not to say youth of today wait until they are "legal" to imbibe, but turning 21 is a coveted landmark in that regard.

Then there is, of course, the whole symbolic passage into Real Adulthood. I am reminded of a Pink Floyd lyric: "Welcome, my son, welcome to The Machine." Yet life doesn't have to be that way. I hope for my son it never is.

We hosted a party for The Boy on his 21st. A kegger. Yes yes. I'm not sure what that says about us as parents but obviously we don't think it says anything too terrible because we have no regrets. You, dear readers, may feel differently.

We were welcomed to be part of the festivities. We knew the no-longer-kids who had been friends of The Boy in high school and his newer friends from college. Other guests we were meeting for the first time.

The picture exhibits me about to partake of a Peppermint Patty administered by The Boy: a shot of pepper- mint schnapps and a squirt of chocolate syrup introduced simultaneously to my mouth. I was also initiated to the intricacies of a game called Flip Cup, in which, I am pleased to report, it is easier to achieve competence than is Beer Pong. The members of my team raucously supported my burgeoning skill.

(Truly I'm curious: would you have played along?)

The Boy wanted his party on his actual birthday despite the fact that it was on a Tuesday, smack dab in the middle of the Real World Work Week. Partying during the work week is evidently not anathema to young adults. His friends came from far and wide, north and south, east and west. I'm only exaggerating a little. They arrived toting pillows and sleeping bags, prepared to crash on our basement floor or wherever else a clear spot could be found. The extravaganza unfolded over three days, Monday to Wednesday. It was a very satisfying parental experience.

A satisfying parental experience? A keg party? Ayup. Quite so.

Wednesday morning, Wendy and I slept in and left the house together around 11:00 am. We tiptoed around so as not to disturb the bodies slumbering in the living room and in the basement. Dudley, our indiscriminate snuggler, curled up with the random body asleep on the couch as soon as it was apparent to him Wendy and I were not going back to bed. The house appeared messy, but not terribly so: Solo cups scattered around, discarded glow necklaces, a paper plate or twelve, a few partially consumed bottles of water.

Until I turned the corner into the kitchen and looked beyond. Home to the remnants of the buffet, the dining room was a disaster area. Our screened porch looked like a hurricane had hit. I closed my eyes to the disarray and headed off to work.

By the time we returned home, The Boy had gone to drop his last guest at the airport. Our house was clean. Not spotless, but damned near. The only obvious evidence of the party was a thank you note one of the girls had slipped under our bedroom door that morning and the empty keg on the porch.

Ayup. Satisfying. Quite so.

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August 22, 2006

QueerCents: Money & Mates

Wendy and I were recently interviewed at QueerCents for their Money & Mates series.

I love their by-line: "We're here, we're queer, and we're not going shopping without coupons."

Check it out. They post on some interesting topics.

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August 21, 2006

I'd Forgotten

The first night The Boy was home for his summer vacation, I cooked up a big welcome home dinner. I prepared what I thought was enough for an army. There were no leftovers.

An hour later he announced, "I'm about ready for my after-dinner pizza."

He was serious.

And so it has been during his visit. He's the white male equivalent of the proverbial bottomless pit.

When he first left for college, I struggled to adjust to cooking for two. My grocery shopping and meal preparation routines have since evolved, what and how much I prepare modified to suit the new family circumstance. I've found it challenging to revert to my old ways, even temporarily.

After feeding him for the past few weeks, I now wonder how he ever finds the time to nourish himself adequately while away at school. I no longer wonder why his grocery bill is so high.

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August 15, 2006

21 Years

Twenty-one years ago today, August 15, 1985, I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy at 1:07 a.m. Seven pounds six and a half ounces, 21" long. My labor was short, a mere seven hours from the first faint "was that a contraction?" until he took his first breath of air and scored consecutive perfect 10s on his Apgar tests. It seems like yesterday.

He and I had a little tiff recently when I asked him a question he'd already answered. Three times prior. My memory can suck, yet his birth statistics I have no trouble remembering. The same holds true for many other memories of our lives in the decades between his birth and now. Things that clutter my head, warm my heart and, at times, bring unexpected tears to my eyes.

Today he stands before us at 170 pounds, 6'-0" tall. Handsome, fit, self-assured and kind, his ready smile framed by incredible dimples mirrors the mirth dancing in his green eyes. The dimension he brought, rather, brings to our lives is more amazing than anything I ever imagined.

Happy birthday to my baby.
And yes, he'll always be my baby.

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August 13, 2006

Chivalry Lives?

Place: Our local Home Depot
Time: Saturday, noonish

The Boy and I were purchasing drywall, eight 8'x4' half-inch sheets. We had one of those nifty rolling carts, designed for carrying such product vertically, strategically positioned nearby.

Sheets of drywall are, for reasons unknown to persons such as myself, stacked in two-sheet groupings connected by a paper tear strip at each end. Since we were buying an even number, we were loading it much as Noah loaded the Ark: two at a time.

The first two sheets were clumsily maneuvered onto the rolling cart. Sheetrock is heavy, but not impossibly so. More cumbersome and awkward as anything of that size tends to be.

The Boy said, "Mom, if you can lift just a bit higher we can slip them on the cart this way." He motioned in the air indicating a path over the bars of the cart into the center section rather than sliding them from the end of the cart as we had with the first set.

"Well, I can try. But I'm an old woman," I said laughing.

Just as those words exited my mouth, another shopper was passing by. He continued on a few steps then stopped and turned around. He said, "Would you like some help?"

That kind stranger and The Boy had the cart loaded in no time.
I'm a much better supervisor than grunt laborer.

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August 6, 2006

Scarce


I'm gonna be scarce.
So scarce you may even forget who I am.
Oh nos!

But The Boy is home for an extended visit.
Extended in this case being three weeks.

Wow. Three weeks.
I don't think I could handle a three week visit with my mom.
Guess we'll see if he can.

So I'm gonna be scarce.
Gotta soak him up while he's here.

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August 3, 2006

Out With the Old

Several weeks back, my mother said to Wendy and me, "I want to do something nice for you girls. You've done so much for me. I've decided I'm going to buy you a new microwave."

My first thought was, "But we have a microwave." Never mind that it is a dinosaur taking up a huge amount of space on the kitchen counter. Never mind that it was purchased before The Boy was born. Never mind that it has a broken door latch that evidently can cause operational difficulties for people with long fingernails. Never mind any of that. It worked fine and I felt no strong desire to replace it.

But once my mom makes a decision, argument is futile. She had decided we needed a new microwave and that it should be of the over-the-stove variety. Preferably with a turntable. My mom has very strong feelings about the need for a microwave turntable. Mother knows best.

A quick aside about our kitchen. When we purchased this house, there were no upper cabinets. Yes that's right. Just bare walls, stark white tile, countertops to ceiling. There is a story there, an almost reasonable and logical explanation for the cabinet deficiency. Yet we had equally as reasonable and logical explanations for why we needed them. We filled those bare walls with cabinets all the way to the ceiling.

The cabinets look great. Except for over the stove. It looked unfinished, like something was missing. The stove exhaust vents through the floor, so we had no hood. Once the idea was planted, the desire to fill that void with a sleek modern microwave was compelling. I decided yes yes yes! Such an appliance would be a wonderful thing indeed!

My mother came to visit and we went shopping. It didn't take long for us to choose the new appliance. She insisted on paying for installation also. "It's a gift, Suzanne. A gift shouldn't create more work for you two." I caved in easily. We do have enough work to do around here.

I had two concerns I shared with the salesperson.

"Our kitchen walls are tiled."
"No problem," she assured me.

"There is no outlet in the cabinet above, but there is one near the stove."
"No problem," she said.

I took off from work to meet the installers at our house.

"We can't install it," said the short one. "The walls are tiled and there is no outlet in the cabinet."

I just shook my head and sighed. His supervisor explained via telephone that they couldn't accept the responsibility of drilling holes in tile. He was very apologetic. "If you have someone drill the holes, we'll come back and install it." Yeesh. I was reminded why I tend to mistrust what salespeople tell me.

After I hung up, the short one started talking again. He said, "Hey lady, I can go ahead and install this for you. The outlet and tile are no problem. I'll do it for you right now, on the side. You can pay me the same amount you would have paid the company I work for."

Oh lovely. Just lovely.
I showed him the door.

I hesitated to share the installation debacle with my mom. But the subject could only be avoided for so long. I had to spill it. By then I had read the instructions and knew it was an easy job. I have no qualms about accepting responsibility for drilling through tile. Wendy and I had also decided we'd be happier with a new circuit run for a cabinet outlet. After a visit from the electrician, the installation itself took us all of an hour to complete.

In an odd coincidence, our old microwave, the one that had been plugging along for over 21 years? It died about a week before we installed the new one. Almost like it knew it was no longer needed.

Kismet. Or something like that.
Mother did know best.

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August 2, 2006

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

You're not paying attention if you are unaware much of the country is being fried by a heat wave. We're broiling out here on the east coast. Not only do we have intense temperatures, we have humidity. Humidity so thick it is like a living force pressing one into the ground and sapping all strength as it causes sweat to bead the moment one ventures outside of air conditioned spaces.

A wonderful time for our company picnic, yes?

The Powers That Be thought so.

I, not being a Power That Be, had little say in the matter.

But I did bring along a cooler of water balloons. Those delightful little gems brought me a little power of my own.

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